03.02.10

Senate Confirms Keenan To Fourth Circuit

WASHINGTON – Just hours after it voted unanimously to end debate on a long-pending judicial nomination, the Senate again voted unanimously to confirm Barbara Keenan to fill a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), unanimously approved the Keenan nomination more than four months ago.  Keenan’s is the just sixth circuit court nomination confirmed this Congress.  The Senate has confirmed just 16 circuit and district court nominations.  Another 13 judicial nominations are pending before the full Senate, including 10 nominations that received strong bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee.  Seven of the pending judicial nominations were approved by the Judiciary Committee without dissent.

“The Senate is far behind where we should be in helping to fill judicial vacancies,” Leahy said.  “Vacancies have skyrocketed to more than 100, and more have been announced.  We need to do better.  The American people deserve better.  I congratulate Justice Keenan on her confirmation today.  I look forward to the time when the 13 additional judicial nominees being stalled are released from the holds and objections that are preventing votes on their confirmations.”

For information about pending judicial nominations, visit the Senate Judiciary Committee website.

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Confirmation Of Barbara Keenan To The Fourth Circuit Court Of Appeals

March 2, 2010

The nomination of Justice Barbara Keenan of Virginia to the Fourth Circuit is noncontroversial. She should have been confirmed long ago.  She has the support of her home state Senators and that of Virginians from both parties, and many others.  She was approved unanimously by the Senator Judiciary Committee over four months ago.  As I predicted, and as the Senators from Virginia predicted, the Senate unanimously voted to end the filibuster of this nomination, 99-0.  No member of the Senate has spoken in opposition to her nomination.  There is no reason she should not be confirmed unanimously.  

Despite the overwhelming support for Justice Keenan, the Senate’s consideration of her nomination was filibustered by Senate Republicans.  Just as one Senator has objected to passing unemployment insurance and COBRA benefits and Medicare payments for doctors and extending the Satellite Home Viewer Act, Republicans refused to agree to debate and vote on the nomination of Justice Keenan.  In fact, they have refused to consider any judicial nominations for the last three weeks.  Delay and obstruction, obstruction and delay. Even for nominations that will be confirmed unanimously. 

The Senate is far behind where we should be in helping to fill judicial vacancies.  Vacancies have skyrocketed to more than 100, and more have been announced.  We need to do better.  The American people deserve better. 

As with so many other nominations before the Senate, Justice Keenan has waited an extraordinary amount of time to be confirmed.  Her nomination was reported – without dissent – by the Judiciary Committee more than four months ago.  The unprecedented pattern of delay and obstruction by Senate Republicans on issue after issue – over 100 filibusters last year alone – has affected 70 percent of all Senate action. 

Instead of time agreements and the will of the majority, the Senate is faced with requiring cloture petitions and 60 votes to overcome a filibuster on issue after issue.  In addition to the Keenan nomination, 10 judicial nominations that received strong bipartisan support in the Judiciary Committee – including seven that were reported without dissent – should be considered without delay.  Debate should be scheduled, and votes taken on each of 14 judicial nominees stalled who have already been considered and favorably reported by the Judiciary Committee.  Only 15 Federal circuit and district court judges have been considered by the Senate during President Obama’s 13 months in office.  By this date during President Bush’s first term, the Senate had confirmed 39 judicial nominees.  The Senate can almost double the total number of judicial nominations it has confirmed by considering the other judicial nominees already before the Senate awaiting final action.  We should do that now, without more delay, without additional obstruction.  

In December, I made several statements in this chamber about the need for progress on the nominees reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee.  I also spoke repeatedly to Senate leaders on both sides of the aisle and made the following proposal:  Agree to immediate votes on those judicial nominees that are reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee without dissent, and agree to time agreements to debate and vote on the others.  I, again, urge Senate Republicans to reconsider their strategy of obstruction and allow prompt consideration of all 14 judicial nominees currently awaiting final Senate consideration.  There is no need for these to be dragged out week after week, month after month, with only a single nominee being considered every several weeks.  End the blockage of this President’s nominees and vote on them.

I congratulate Justice Keenan on her confirmation today.  I look forward to the time when the 13 additional judicial nominees being stalled are released from the holds and objections that are preventing votes on their confirmations.

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